Harry

Mono Cafe

A big part of my project involved running a winter cafe (known as the Mono Cafe) alongside another EVS volunteer. We served an array of food and drinks and it gave us a great opportunity to get to know some of the locals whilst also practising some of our Finnish language skills. I really enjoyed the responsibility that we were entrusted with and judging by the positive feedback we received from our customers, it was a great success. I was able to show my creative side by making suggestions on new things we could include on the menu and also ways we could attract a greater number of new customers. I took real pride in running the cafe and I learnt a lot from the experience, including that I am capable of managing a project if it is something I am passionate about and really believe in. 

Forest walk from Villa Elba to Kokkola Centre

School Visits

Another part of my project involved visiting some of the local schools to talk to the children about my own culture, which was extremely fascinating as it led to some interesting discussions about our cultural differences as well as our similarities. I was intrigued by how much the children already knew about British culture and how eager they were to learn more, which was evident from the number of questions they had for me. I was equally fascinated to know more about their culture, particularly their school life, and how it differed to my time in school. 

Sunrise at Villa Elba

Overall Learning

Throughout my EVS project I was able to confidently communicate in my mother tongue as I knew that the majority of the people I was speaking with had a good level of English. Occasionally I would meet someone who struggled slightly with their English, but I feel I was able to be patient with them and even help them improve their English language capabilities.

During my time in Finland, I attended some Finnish language lessons which I thoroughly enjoyed, however, whilst I did learn some basic words and sentences, it was very difficult for me to gain enough vocabulary and understanding of the language in order to be able to regularly join in with conversations. Towards the end of my project, there were instances where I pleasantly surprised myself as I was able, to some extent, follow a Finnish conversation going on around me even though I couldn’t contribute to the conversation.

By Harry

Jessica

Hello, I am Jessica. I grew up in the south of Wales, in a small valley but later moved to Cornwall for college. I have always wanted to live as close to nature as possible.

This EVS project is in a small animal rescue park, in the middle of the countryside Italy but 1.5 hours outside Rome. In this Park, they rescue local wildlife like sparrows, hawks, foxes, and deer. They also take rescued exotic animals like capuchins, macaques, birds, and wild pigs.

I arrived here at the end of June and I am living in a small cottage next to the park. I live with another EVS, Laura from Spain. So far we have both been enjoying the Italian diet, the beautiful scenery, and wonderful animals. I was very excited to come. I had always wanted to visit Italy because of its beautiful countryside and artistic cities. Before coming here, I have previously volunteered in animal rescue parks during my days off at college. Since that experience, I am confident I want to have a career with animals.

This EVS placement is the perfect opportunity to expand my experience and gain more knowledge in the industry. Because I had worked in animal parks before, I knew what the general day to day activities were. I was expecting to spend a lot of time cleaning, chopping food, and taking care of the animal. I do all of these things daily but also more. I get to spend time learning the primates’ behaviours, learn about the correct diets for each species, and learn the process for rehabilitating wild animals. It’s hard work but I have adapted easily into the environment, thanks to the people working with me. The team here is incredible, everyone is always ready to help you with anything you need, they are here to support you on a bad day and the atmosphere feels like a big family from all over Europe.

I am learning about new cultures, new languages, and becoming more confident in myself and in my skills.

By Jessica

Updates from Tallinn

Hey EuroPeers,

I hope everyone is doing well and enjoying the last of the summer after probably the weirdest, not so wonderful summer of our lives! I have been in Tallinn for three weeks now and the transition from the UK to here has felt like a big step away from Coronavirus (fingers crossed) whilst taking a giant step towards readjustment to a new culture! The initial shock of no longer wearing masks, limited socialising and virtually no social distancing has taken a while to sink in. Sauna-ing with work colleagues, navigating different social cues, and getting lost in supermarket aisles are all part and parcel of settling in, a familiar feeling that I am sure many EuroPeers can share from when they began their European Solidarity Corps or Erasmus+ projects.

But in the EuroPeers international world, digital activities and developments soldier on. Here are just a few…the EuroPeers Steering Group has been selected! We had such a high quality of applications from extremely dedicated and passionate young people around Europe. There was even interest from Serbia and Albania which demonstrated the vast interest in the Network and space for growth. There will be EuroPeers Youth representatives from the UK, Finland, Italy, Austria, and Serbia! We’re sending out the message “participation before borders” and motivation really matters. Keep your eyes peeled for an introduction to this team on the EuroPeers International Facebook Page and Instagram!

We’re also looking for EuroPeers with a passion for photography who would want to help with our Instagram launch! It is an opportunity to have a one-to-one workshop and photoshoot with Facetime extraordinaire Tim Dunk. Check out his work here. The project will promote the strong unity and togetherness of EuroPeers in the face of Covid-19 and serve to engage newcomers to our community who might never have even heard of EU Youth projects! You’ll learn some great new photography skills that you can harness for future projects, especially in the Corona digital era. The only requirement (unfortunately) is that you have an iPhone or can borrow one from a family member/close friend for the shoots you will learn to do!

Please email the European Network Coordinator ASAP at Emily.Keal@archimedes.ee if you would like to be involved!

We hope to hold the workshops in September.

By Emily, European EuroPeers Network Coordinator

What’s next?

It is fair to say 2020 took many of us by surprise. Much has happened in a matter of months, which has toyed with our emotions like ping pong, and shaped our behaviour (through fear-mongering, hope, education, or a new law passing). If you are reading this then you have lived through some major incidents, which will be studied in years to come.

In particular, the pandemic and the consequences of a lockdown (on economics, social, political, environmental, health, etc) has affected everyone (in different degrees of severity). We have been challenged with adapting to new ways of coping in our individualised situations, including but not limited to social distancing, good hand hygiene, face masks, and working/studying from home, and for numerous households living with little means.During all of the constant changes and uncertainty of the future, it is important to take care of one’s well being. A change of scenario usually helps me. As a result, I recently agreed to drive to St Andrew’s from London to help a fellow Londoner move out of her flat. During my stay, I made a last-minute decision to meet with a fellow EuroPeer in Glasgow, whom Olga put me in touch with. Edyta and I met for the first time and we clicked straight away. The hours flew by and our conversations gained depth almost immediately. It was exactly what I needed-a talk with a fellow EuroPeer to get me excited with all the possibilities. I wonder what’s next?

2020 is far from over, and although the restrictions of lockdown have eased in many places, CoronaVirus is still taking lives. I wish you good health and many positive experiences in the coming months. We have been through an awful lot, so wrap your limbs around your body and give yourself a warm hug for all the things you’ve encountered. A really big well done to you for your resilience (and attempting the hug)! 

By Ruma

It’s a good, good year…

It has been almost 20 days since I left England. In the blink of an eye, I’m back in Greece. I feel good. The house looks more colorful, people look happier, even the food tastes better. Nothing changed at all here in Greece, only the pandemic arrived and it’s obviously quite a big deal. I feel so grateful for choosing to spend a full year abroad. Volunteering for twelve months in two EVS projects is the greatest gift that I’ve made to myself, after buying my first camera.

As a teacher and an amateur photographer, in just 12 months I got new experiences across both of my interests, I met people that made me feel motivated to start learning four languages at the same time. I have plenty of people around the world to share moments with and… everything in the most uncertain times looks so balanced. I have so many memories that I can recall, so many smiling faces, songs in Spanish, Romanian, Italian, Lithuanian… an Austrian “swan” to share our interest in photography, places, colors, emotions… all of these captured in a few words and many many MANY photos and videos. The technique in photography is not something that I know a lot about, though the natural beauty is more than enough to show you the world in our ‘’eyes”. With our team, “The Keswick squad”, we travelled around and captured the magic of the Lake District, while volunteering for our EVS, hosted by Momentum World.

This small gallery is just a sample of our time together as a team. We are in the process of gathering more photos which will be featured in a small book, full of memories. Feel free to have a look and if there is this ‘’small voice’’ inside your head that tells you to try a similar experience, giving it a try is a good idea.

Click here for more beautiful photos of the Lake District. 

By Eva

EuroPeers Youth Steering Group

Are you passionate about your EVS/ESC or youth mobility schemes? Do you have visions for what the EuroPeers network should look like? Do you have experience in project planning or would like to give it a shot within an international team? If you answered yes to any of these, then we are looking for you! EuroPeers are selecting SIX enthusiastic people aged 16-30 (just like Austrian EuroPeer Lina, pictured!) to join their EuroPeers Ideas Steering Group!

This is an opportunity to work directly with National Agencies for Erasmus+, and to help shape training opportunities and future projects. We want the team to be super representative with differing levels of ability, so we encourage EuroPeers from all over Europe to apply! EuroPeers’ future is in your hands, so seize the opportunity! 

Please send us a message on Facebook if you are interested in joining, along with a short bio, what skills you have, what ideas you have to take EuroPeers forward, and why EuroPeers is important to you. Alternatively, you can email the Network Coordinator at emily.keal@archimedes.ee for more info. We can’t wait to hear from you!

By EuroPeers International Team

Louis – Scotland –

Uniquely International

In Scotland, we have been in lockdown for around 3 months. Despite widespread acknowledgment of lockdown’s necessity, of which I also agree, I can’t help but feel that the whole situation is a bit rubbish. As a form of escapism, most nights I find myself looking back on the many international experiences I’ve had, and messaging my friends from around the globe. International experiences are brilliant for your employability and self-improvement, but this wasn’t the material I was reminiscing about. It was the amusing, powerful, and sometimes bizarre moments I have shared with my international friends which spiked my memory.

 

Over the course of my teenage years, I represented the Scottish junior fencing team. With the team, I was lucky enough to travel all over the world for competitions, and in the process make some amazing connections. When you are in a new country for the first time, with new people, you often find yourself in situations that wouldn’t arise in your home country. One such situation was at the Junior Commonwealth Games in South Africa.

After the competition, we had a chance to do some sightseeing with the local South African team. One day we were on the road to see the Cape of Good Hope when we stopped at a scenic spot for sandwiches. Some friends and I were sitting next to some shrubbery when out of nowhere a small hand popped out from the bushes and stole my sandwich from right under my nose! My friends were in pools of laughter, as they just witnessed a wild baboon pinch my lunch. I also saw the hilarity of the situation, until I had to explain to the trip leader why I needed another sandwich, which of course he didn’t believe (I don’t blame him).

Another such situation was after my first international competition in Poland. A bunch of Polish fencers were showing us a local waterpark. They had devised a game where we would throw a tube-shaped flume down a slide and 6 people would go down after it, the winner being whoever was on the flume at the end. This seemed a wonderful idea, but halfway down, the person on the flume started spinning and roundhouse kicked me in the face. Everyone was rather shocked at the bottom with the new shape of my nose and insisted on taking me to the hospital. While at the hospital I had the interesting experience of trying to explain in a mixture of broken polish and English what had happened to my nose. My communication skills had never been tested like this, and unsurprisingly I had never been taught about the protocol of such a situation in school. Despite this, my nose was fixed, and it has become a favourite story among my Polish friends. I even picked up the nickname Rocky Balboa.

 

 The most moving of these situations was when I was part of a global academy in Chengdu, China. On a Saturday some Chinese students said they were hiking up a local mountain to see a medieval Buddhist temple, and this was an opportunity I couldn’t miss. With my new friends, we spent 3 hours hiking up said mountain. I didn’t appreciate how humid this climb would be, which added to the challenge. We finally reached the top and gazed upon the most serene view: the temple in a shroud of flowers and trees, overlooking a huge valley. We sat there, drinking water out of a refreshingly cold fountain, and talked about our families. The bond we fostered on top of that mountain will never diminish, despite the fact it was the sweatiest I have ever been in my life. This will forever remain one of my most powerful and emotive memories.

My international experience has been invaluable when it comes to employment: it has showcased my linguistic and communication skills, my cultural understanding, and is the primary factor in getting my current internship at momentum world. However, what sticks with me most, in difficult times such as these, are the experiences and friends I have fostered over the years. I hope you will also be able to travel as I have, and have unique experiences of your own to cherish.

By Louis

 

 

 

 

 

 

Edyta – UK-

Last months were definitely difficult and challenging for everyone, myself included. Since the beginning of the lockdown, I was living on my own and I would be lying if I said it was easy, but ironically, a lot of things happened during this time.

The first major achievement is that I have managed to finish my dissertation and submit all my final assessments, which means I have finally graduated from University. I could never have imagined that I would be celebrating on my own, but the feeling was still amazing. When I moved to Edinburgh, my main goal was to get a University degree and now I ’ve finally managed to achieve that. I actually still can’t believe it!

Except that, I’ve spent a lot of time during this quarantine reflecting on my life, reading books, and watching sunsets at the shore. In the middle of May, I started to work again for the fashion app from Portugal – CHIC Every Weather, where I was doing my internship last year.

I also had to make a few important decisions about my future. Initially, my plan was to start the Erasmus Mundus International Master Degree in September, which would take place in Glasgow, Barcelona and Rotterdam, however, I have decided to take this year off from studying and instead, gain more working experience in my field. In two weeks, I’m going back to Poland to finally see my family and after that, in August, I’m planning to move to Glasgow.

I know the time is very uncertain, but I have a positive feeling. I’m excited about the future and I know everything will work out for all of us after all.

By Edyta

Nathan’s Youth for Europe

Hi everyone!

I hope you are all keeping well and enjoying the lovely weather (while making sure to stay safe)!! As you will have seen from previous editions, some of the EuroPeers have been involved in a project called Youth4Europe.

I’ve been fortunate enough to take part in 3 of the online talks: 

The first was with Niklas Nienass, a German MEP, where we discussed the proposal I helped to create during a youth exchange in Spain last year. Then I joined as a guest for Norry Ascroft’s talk on the Truth Against Bullying, a book he has created for education providers in the UK to reduce bullying and mental health issues that young people face.

Lastly with Leigh Middleton, the CEO of the National Youth Agency, who spoke about youth work in England. 

All of the talks were extremely inspiring and gave me reassurance when thinking about my future in these uncertain times. I would highly recommend going on the Youth4Europe Facebook page and having a look at the plethora of interviews on there. At least one will inspire you!!!

Now the talks have come to a close. So the organisers of the project hosted an awards ceremony, on Zoom of course! It was a great close to this chapter of Youth4Europe; full of laughs and heartwarming comments and it made me realise how lucky I am to have been a part of it.

Now all that is left is to look forward to the final meeting in Brussels this October!!!

Best wishes,

Nathan 

 

 

Harry’s project in Finland

Hi! I’m Harry, from the UK and I’ve been volunteering in Finland since January. My project is based at a Youth Centre in Kokkola and my voluntary work here has been incredibly varied.

My day to day tasks generally include helping out with the maintenance of the grounds and buildings and also organising events. As well as this, I have had the opportunity to visit some Finnish schools and talk with the students about my country and it’s culture, which was really enjoyable as it led to some interesting discussions about the differences between our countries and hopefully encouraged them to consider travelling and volunteering abroad themselves in the future. Another part of my project has involved running a café, alongside another long term EVS volunteer, which has been hugely successful and allows us to meet many of the locals to practice our Finnish language skills whilst serving an array of food and drinks.

There’s no denying that the COVID-19 pandemic certainly interfered with my plans, but recently I’ve had more time to reflect on some of the amazing experiences I’ve had here. I went to my first ever Ice Hockey and Floorball matches, I went ice swimming, I’ve gone on some spectacular walks in nature, spent many hours in the sauna and most importantly have met some wonderful people. I’m looking forward to the rest of the summer now that things are close to being back to normal and I’m able to travel further around the country and experience more of what this incredible country has to offer!

By Harry

Laura – Spain-

It feels like a lifetime ago thinking back on it now, but I still remember that afternoon on Tuesday 10 th March. After a normal day of university, I was at home, nervously checking e-mails, WhatsApp messages and online newspapers to see what the next day would hold. Were classes going to be cancelled? Would my university be closed? Would in fact the entire city go on lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic? A whole evening of questions which concluded in the anticipated yes, all universities and schools would be closed from Wednesday until further notice. But the reality only hit the next day when a visit to the supermarket made me feel as though we were preparing for a nuclear war: shelves had been completely emptied of products, people were loading their shopping carts with toilet paper (honestly, what were people’s obsession with toilet paper?!) and the panic was almost palpable.

It may sound dramatic and I realise I am painting a rather ugly picture, but the truth is that the situation in Spain has been dire. The country has spent the past three months on lockdown, hospitals became overcrowded, medical staff were overworked (to say the very least), some small shops have gone out of business, and all of this has come around during the exam period for students and pupils. So, I won’t lie… it’s been hard, as I’m sure it has been for you too, whoever you are, reading this.

And yet, we’ve made it through the three months of lockdown, the numbers of fatalities per day have gone down, new small businesses have emerged, bars, restaurants and museums have reopened, and exams have either been done online (successfully) or they have been simply postponed to later on in the year.

In Spanish, we have this saying “no hay malo que por bien no venga”, which means “there is no evil that comes without bearing good”. Even amid change and uncertainty, even despite the challenges we may have to face, I believe that there is always something to be learnt or taken away from a bad situation, even one as trying as the COVID-19 pandemic.

Once the shock stage had been surpassed, we saw individuals come together in unity: a post on social media started a nation-wide clapping here in Spain, and so every evening at 8 pm we would lean out from our windows and balconies and clap together. It started off as a way of showing our appreciation for the medical staff, but as the days went on and we carried on doing it, the clapping also became a way of supporting each other in our neighbourhoods. A way of coming together as a community. Also, most people suddenly had more free time on their hands and were able to finally do those creative things they had always put off: painting, singing, picking up a new instrument, sewing, reading… One of my neighbours decided to spend three consecutive mornings sanding down and then painting the wooden frame of his window, and whilst I did not appreciate the noise too much, I have to admit I grew to admire his dedication to that window-frame.

Another advantage we have gained in the midst of this pandemic has been the discovery of doing work from home. Whilst I am completely against teleworking replacing human contact (because it cannot and it should not), we cannot deny that working from home has brought about new opportunities, new ideas and perhaps for some even greater efficiency. But by far the greatest positive impact that COVID-19 has brought us is a greater appreciation for the things that truly matter: unity, family, compassion, health, wellbeing, nature, the outside, and getting together with friends. All the little things that we took for granted and were snatched away from our grasp three months ago are the things that we are finally learning to value.

In the first week of the lockdown, I started calling my grandma on a daily basis, knowing that, since she lives alone and wouldn’t have anyone to talk to in person, she would need someone there, even if it was just over the phone. More recently, those daily calls with my grandma have turned into evening catch-ups between my grandma, my mum and myself, and at the end of each day, we give each other updates and talk about what we each got up to during the day. And now I realise that what I saw at first as merely a caring gesture that would help my grandma, has been one of the things that, along with the love and support of other, beautiful people in my life, has sustained me through this trying time. And not only that: it’s also simultaneously crazy and magical that during this time of isolation we have actually all become closer.

One day, when all of this is history, we will be able to remind ourselves of just how resilient and strong we were, to overcome a situation such as this. We will have new tools at our disposal and new ways of overcoming challenges. We will have grown as individuals, having had the opportunity to discover ourselves a bit more or revisit forgotten parts of ourselves. And most importantly, I hope and believe that we will be more united and more compassionate towards one another, having learnt to value that which truly matters.

By Laura

Jamie-Lee -UK-

In the space of a few weeks the whole world has changed in ways none of us could ever have imagined. Most of the world has gone into lockdown as Covid-19 raged through every country and nation causing a global pandemic. 

Normality has been stripped away from us and it feels like we have entered some sort of dystopian movie with everyone getting sick, we can no longer have human contact, humans must stay 2 metres apart and we can only leave our homes for an hour of exercise a day or more necessities. These are the rules the UK government has put in place to slow the spread of the virus to stop more people from getting sick and lessen the strain on our health system. However, lockdown has been difficult for many of us, but it has shown us that in the face of uncertainty we are resilient. 

Glasgow (my city) and my community has pulled together to help those who are vulnerable by helping with shopping, making sure we all have enough food to get through these next few weeks or months and by keeping each other’s spirits up. Individuals within my community came together (stuck to the rules though) to paint murals on abandoned ground to show with everyone feeling alone during they are not and to show support for our amazing NHS. 

The declaration of a worldwide lockdown has given us time to think and reflect on the current situation and ourselves. These times have shown us what is important in life – compassion, love, family, friends and human connection. We may feel alone right now but we are not. We are all in this together andwe will get through it together!

Love, Jamie-Lee

Returning from EVS

What would you find most interesting about my return to the UK during the lockdown, I wonder? The empty train stations? The rolling countryside? The police waypoints and deserted airport? How about the massage I got from the eighty year old homeless man who just lived right there in the terminal? It was a rough night, sleeping there on the cold tiles, but for him it was normal (old normal).

There was also the army there at the airport, patrolling around in groups. They had automatic rifles, but thankfully spent most of their time smiling at the pretty hostesses. They did a thermal scan on me before I got on the plane.

“Parli italiano?” The man asked me.

“Er… Inglese è meglio per me,” I replied, a little begrudgingly. 

I’d hoped my Italian would be better by the time it came to leaving. I’d had ten out of the twelve months of my volunteering project in Italy, and when it came time to leave I’m lucky to say that it was by my own will, not forced by the current circumstances. 

I’d been living quite comfortably through lockdown conditions in rural Umbria in fact; getting lots of sunshine and eating great food in what is already a rather isolated part of the world. But the truth is, I’d found my volunteering placement extremely challenging at times, and the lockdown had taken away all the little social events that were going to be the stepping stones to get me through until the end of my year. It didn’t affect me much to begin with, in fact I’d even discussed with my host the possibility of staying on longer if circumstances made it difficult for me to leave. Then suddenly, one day at the beginning of April, I started looking for a flight and had the strongest urge to pack my bags, which I did, and was fully ready to leave on a moment’s notice despite the fact that I hadn’t decided I truly wanted to. By the end of the month, I was gone.

I’ve come to appreciate what a valuable thing that is nowadays, with the travel restrictions. Of course I wouldn’t encourage anyone to travel unless it’s really necessary, but I think it’s also important to know that it’s possible. If you need to go, you can go – it just takes a little extra planning and preparation.

When I arrived in the UK I came straight to Scotland, where I knew I could maintain social isolation, and where I had a new project to step right into – helping develop a meditation retreat in a remote western glen. Right away I’ve begun applying the skills I learned and developed as a volunteer. We’ve set up a tunnel so we can start growing our own produce, and this week we’ll be planting six or eight fruit trees, which will make a nice shady grove someday. It rains a lot here and when it’s cold we light a fire and put the kettle on for tea. I tried haggis for the first time the other day, and it was very tasty.

Change is the very nature of Nature. I’ve heard lots of great stories from people making positive changes in their lives, as a result of these big changes, and that’s so reassuring for me. Of course, we have to remain pro-active not only re-active but in the meantime let’s continue to adapt to what comes, shall we? 

(…and enjoy the haggis along the way.)

By Joseph

Sofia – Italy –

On the 4th of May 2020, I woke up in a sort of Christmas-like atmosphere. When I was a child on Christmas morning, like most children in the world, I used to wake up very early with a dizzy feeling. It wasn’t just out of curiosity for the presents that I may have received. I was just incredibly amazed to realise that the day we’ve all been talking about and always seemed so far away was actually “today”. 

For more than two months, “the end of the total lockdown” felt like the horizon: you advance one step and it keeps goes one step further. For more than two months, living felt like experiencing a single everlasting day. On the morning of the 4th of May, I have to admit I no longer felt this way. Something has changed. Things evolved. And I had changed as well. 

On Friday 21st February, I was working as a substitute middle school teacher. In the morning my colleagues were discussing the recent news of an infected businessman near Milan. I didn’t pay much attention to this superfluous morning gossip. During the next days schools in my region got closed for one week. I did not get to see my students again. 

In the first weeks I prepared to bury my freedom, following the five stages of grief: denial (“everybody is overreacting”), anger (“It’s insane, I am not going to respect these freaking nonsensical rules!), bargaining (“okay, I am respecting everything but at least I’m going to walk alone as I’ve never done before”), depression (“I miss the outside ”) and acceptance: I came to appreciate my “quaran-routine” and to enjoy the delicate pleasure of flowers blooming in the garden. I sincerely thanked the cosmos for pledging me with a home. 

Quarantine put life on pause. It paused my worries and my fears for an especially uncertain period of my life. In a certain way, it gave me certitude. It gave me something you don’t get in real life: the 4th of May. The day after the Big Change that occurred, after infinite reflections about the abnormality of our “normal”,  the need to take care of one another, the hugs we miss, and the tons of “andrà tutto bene”. 

Will it really be? Or will we just remain like a disappointed child on the 26th of December, seeking the comfort of her old worn out doll, next to all her new toys unwrapped, and forgotten? 

Let’s not forget our presents. I hope you’ll enjoy your personal “4th of May”. 

By Sofia, in Milan, Italy